Wednesday, March 31, 2010


On March 26, the Gov't Administrations and Elections Committee met to
consider the HB 5285. The bill passed the Labor Committee unanimously
and was sent to the GAE Committee for further action.
was on GAE’s agenda for their final meeting, but it along with 3 other
bills were not acted on. They didn’t run out of time.  The chairs just
didn’t call it, which means that it is dead at this time.  It is
probably unlikely to be amended to another bill.
The Chairs of GAE need to hear from us. They let this die.
Their office is
Government Administrations and Elections Committee
      Room 2200, Legislative Office Building
      Hartford, CT 06106
      Phone: 860-240-0480
S14 - Slossberg, Gayle S.       Co-Chair 
036 - Spallone, James Field     Co-Chair 
S12 - Meyer, Edward     Vice Chair 
030 - Aresimowicz, Joe 
If we can let the legislators
know that we are unhappy, we may see it pass next year.
Thanks again for all your activities and help in trying to end
legalized harassment and abusive conduct in the workplace.
Kathy Hermes

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What makes a bully?

In 2005, my friend Marlene committed suicide after she was bullied at work. Although it was my first introduction to workplace bullying, and certainly to someone committing suicide because of it, it turns out that this was not an isolated incident. Cultures of fear pervade American workplaces and schools. Bullies can be male or female. They do not necessarily bully everyone; in fact, they choose their targets.

Today, NPR's Talk of the Nation discussed bullying and suicide:

In the latest issue of Time Magazine, there is an article about a Navy captain, a woman, who was such a bully that sailors under her command cheered when they thought she had run her ship aground, because they presumed she'd be fired. The New York Times also ran an article this year called "Backlash" about women bullies in the workplace.

We are still learning about why bullying happens, but that it is a lifelong possibility and that it can be done by men or women and to men or women is clear from the WBI studies.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Unions and Workplace Bullying

Unions: people hate them, unless they love them. I belong to the CSU-AAUP (Connecticut State University-American Association of University Professors), a bargaining unit for college professors. There is no benefit I have that I think other workers should be without. To me, the AAUP contract is the kind of document every worker in America should have, tailored to one's particular circumstances. But it does not have a provision on workplace bullying, and frankly, people don't go to the union when they are bullied, because the process is not that helpful. Unions in general need education when it comes to this problem.

I was delighted when President of CSU-AAUP, Dave Walsh, gave me the opportunity to speak to the union council about workplace bullying. Two years ago, when Connecticut's SB 60, a Healthy Workplace Bill, went down without a vote, CSU-AAUP passed a resolution saying they would support any such bill in the future. But this time I spoke more broadly, urging the union to support CT Raised Bill 5285, suggesting the union consider contract language similar to the Massachusetts SEIU/NAGE agreement of 2009, and finally asking them to actively work for a Healthy Workplace Bill. President Walsh sent a letter of support for HB 5285 and the union will discuss these other matters.

I am happy to see my union taking it seriously. All government workers, whether federal or state, are easy targets for bullies. People have a lot invested in jobs like this. I have noticed health care is another professional heavily affected, and one state is proposing a bill related only to health workers. 

The unions who support a Healthy Workplace Bill and workplace bullying legislation include the CT AFL-CIO, the New York State University Teachers, the Professional Staff Congress, and the Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA). CSEA is already educating its union stewards to recognize bullying and is negotiating contracts to include a workplace bullying protections. The Business and Professional Women of New York State also issued a resolution. 

Here is the contract language SEIU/NAGE of Massachusetts passed last year, in part:

The Commonwealth and the Union agree that mutual respect between and among managers, employees, co-workers and supervisors is integral to the efficient conduct of the Commonwealth’s business. Behaviors that contribute to a hostile, humiliating or intimidating work environment, including abusive language or behavior, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. 

Such statements of mutual respect should not be controversial. Americans who still have jobs are spending more time at those jobs, usually under increasing pressure and stress these days. Recently, the Workplace Bullying Institute awarded one business a Bullyfree Workplace status for their hard work in creating a culture of respect. We need to see more bullyfree workplaces! 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Connecticut's HB 5285 moves forward: why that's good for all of us.

HB 5285AN ACT CONCERNING STATE EMPLOYEES AND VIOLENCE AND BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE was voted out of the Labor Committee on the 9th and yesterday it was sent to Government Administration and Elections Committee.  It passed the Labor Committee on an unanimous vote.  That is a very positive sign. This a bill that mandates that the state receive information about complaints of workplace bullying and abusive conduct when it happens to state workers.

The Act defines workplace bullying as:  "Abusive conduct" means conduct or a single act of a state employee in the workplace that is performed with malice and is unrelated to the state's legitimate interest that a reasonable person would find hostile or offensive considering the severity, nature and frequency of the conduct or the severity and egregiousness of the single act. Abusive conduct includes, but is not limited to, (A) repeated infliction of verbal abuse such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults and epithets; (B) verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating or humiliating; or (C) sabotaging or undermining a person's work performance; 

The Act therefore largely uses the language recommended by the Workplace Bullying Institute in the Healthy Workplace Bill

While many in the movement are eager for a Healthy Workplace Bill to pass, what Connecticut is proposing--to study the problem--is a first step in establishing what many of us know firsthand: that bullying is a rampant workplace problem. A WBI-Zogby Poll found that 37% of workers reported being bullied at work. Add to that the number of people who have been witnesses to bullying, for whom the work environment also becomes stressful, and about half of all workers are affected by the problem. 

People just want to do their jobs. I was reading a book Employment Law in a Nutshell, 3d (West Nutshell) (Paperback) by Robert N. Covington, Ch. 5, pp. 326 and 327. I was very surprised to come across a discussion of bullying, and even the question of what happens when an employee commits suicide over bullying. The subject came up in a discussion of stress, but in one case, Swiss Company, Inc. v. Dept. of Industry, Labor, and Human Relations, 72 Wisc. 2d 46, 240 N.W. 2d 128 (Wisc. 1976) there was recovery when a bullying supervisor berated and harshly criticized the claimant, who had been working long hours and was under a great deal of stress. People in the 1970s were fighting for things like comparable worth legislation, equal pay for equal work, and so to find this first raised in the 1970s shouldn't be so surprising. But in this employment compensation claim, we see the nascent beginnings of what is now a movement.

The movement is about fairness. Contrary to some claims by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the workplace bullying movement is not anti-business. We value our jobs or we would not be fighting so hard to make the workplaces where we work healthy ones. HB 5285 does not affect private business. It measures instances of abuse of state employees. This bill will ultimately help make our work places, private and public, safer, healthier and more productive just by recognizing the problem.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

CCSU Professors Speak Out for Solidarity in Confronting State Budget Crisis

Statement on the Connecticut Budget Crisis, March 1, 2010

On February 22, 2010, CSU-AAUP President David Walsh sent a letter alerting CSU-AAUP union members of the gravity of the State of Connecticut’s budget deficit and the likelihood that some CSU departments, programs, and employees will be terminated with the next biennial budget.  According to President Walsh’s letter, Connecticut has already borrowed $1.2 billion to bridge its budget shortfall and estimates predict the deficit will grow another billion dollars by June 2010 and an additional three to four billion dollars during fiscal year 2011-2012. 
These budget deficits are not the fault of university employees, nor the fault of students.  Instead, they represent a failure of our nation’s economic and political system fed by an economy of low wages and high debt, foreign wars, a lack of stable, well-paid jobs, and long-term problems in the nation’s health care and retirement systems.   In this is moment of crisis, we cannot be bystanders as administrators and politicians undermine our university’s mission.   Higher education is essential to a vibrant economy and we must ensure that Connecticut residents have access to affordable, quality education.  The state’s economy will not be fixed by adding university employees to the ranks of the unemployed, but eroding our education system puts everyone’s future at risk.  

As faculty we have fought for shared governance, recognizing our unique insight into what it takes to create a quality education.  In keeping with this fundamental principle, we insist that:
  • ·       There can be no cuts in education or student services. The excellence of our university must be maintained.
  • ·       All university budgetary matters must be made transparent; faculty, staff, and students must participate in all decisions concerning cost saving measures. 
  • ·       There can be no faculty or staff layoffs.  Administrators must not be given preferential treatment in terms of pay raises or retention bonuses.  The retention of our fine faculty and staff must be the first priority.
  • ·       Affirmative action must be defended.  Reduced budgets cannot be used to undermine the creation of a diversity faculty, staff, and student body. 
  • ·       The budget deficit must not be passed on to our students. We stand against increases in tuition and fees, and any measures that compromise the quality and affordability of our students’ education. 

We also recognize the power of democratically-organized unions to enact positive social change.  This will be accomplished through broad discussion and decision-making among the membership.  Even though budget cuts have already increased our workload, we must make room in our professional lives for union participation and we call on our union representatives to facilitate open discussion through regular and meaningful meetings in which members make decisions together.  Finally, we recognize the importance of standing in solidarity with CSU staff, students, and other unions, including, but not limited to those within the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition.  We call upon staff, students, and other unions to enter the discussion that we begin with his statement and make suggestions as to how best to meet this crisis.  Together, we can move beyond legislative politics and build a powerful movement, just as the faculty and students of the University of California have begun to do.  


Briann Greenfield, Chair, CCSUProfs4Progress 
Steven Adair
Mike Alewitz
Sheri Fafunwa-Ndibe
Kathy Hermes
Jeffry McGowan
Serafín Méndez-Méndez
Rachael Siporin
Robert Wolff


Saturday, March 6, 2010

June Baker Higgins Gender Studies 20th Anniversary Conference, May 7-9, 2010

Gail Collins, a columnist from the New York Times, will be our Keynote Speaker on May 7 and Rachel Lloyd, a sexually exploited teenager who later founded Girls Education and Mentoring Service (GEMS), will present at noon on May 8.

The Central Connecticut State University Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program 20th Anniversary Conference & Celebration welcomes proposals for papers or panels from faculty, independent scholars, graduate students, and senior undergraduate students (supervised by professors) for the June Baker Higgins Gender Studies Conference May 7-9, 2010. This year’s theme is on facets of “Being 20,” in keeping with CCSU’s celebration of twenty years of having a Women’s Studies (now Women, Gender and Sexualities Studies) program! 

We encourage innovative and creative ways of approaching the theme. Examples of topics may include: struggles, economics, injustices, globalization, changes, aging, rights, conflicts, innovations, cultures, concerns, laws, sexualities, creative works, bodies, solutions, movements, strategies, leaders, or age, and some aspect of “Being 20.”   Topics that do not fit within the theme of the conference, but which are of general relevance to Women, Gender and/or Sexuality are welcomed, but preference will be given to panels and papers that address this year’s theme.  Abstracts for papers or panels, poster sessions, or short films may be submitted immediately to
Cynthia Pope at An electronic submission form is available at: Submissions should be received no later than April 2, 2010.

No registration fee is required, as it is part of our feminist mission to make the conference accessible and affordable.

Registration forms are available online and anyone may attend at no cost. Banquet reservations do require payment. Anyone interested in advertising in our conference program may contact Carolyn Fallahi at All advertising proceeds will help fund the June Baker Higgins Scholarship at Central Connecticut State University.

Search This Blog